Road

Hushovd not happy at Garmin, but is BMC different?

World champion Thor Hushovd, who will begin a three-year commitment with BMC Racing in January, told Norwegian TV 2 Sport that he was frustrated with Garmin-Cervélo’s approach to the classics in 2011. But it's worth noting that at BMC he'll join a star-packed team that may not always be aligned with his ambitions.

A be-wigged Thor Hushovd entertains his team. Photo: Graham Watson
A high point of Hushovd's time at Garmin: The 2011 Tour team introduction ceremony Photo: Graham Watson

With Hushovd, Tyler Farrar and Heinrich Haussler all potential leaders in the cobbled races, Johan Van Summeren was the only Garmin rider to win in the spring when he surprised at Paris-Roubaix.

“I have not been happy with it and do not think there has been a good fit. So it is one of the reasons I chose not to extend,” said Hushovd.

The Norwegian’s rumored departure simmered through an ultra-successful Tour de France that saw him win two individual stages and play a key role in Garmin’s stage 2 team time trial and Farrar’s stage 3 sprint win. Hushovd also wore the yellow jersey for eight days, beginning with the TTT win. It was Norway’s most successful Tour ever — and the best for a current world champion since Greg LeMond won the overall in 1990.

Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters hoped the team’s strong July performance would bring Hushovd back and was frustrated throughout the Tour with the persistent discussion of his first world champion’s departure.

Hushovd said in Paris that he sought safety and support.

“I seek safety. It’s important to be at a team where I fit in socially and feel at home,” Hushovd told Norwegian journalists. “And I want to be able to go to the races that are most important to me, and to be backed up at those races.”

On Tuesday BMC announced the signing, ending two months of speculation over Hushovd’s potential return to a French squad like Ag2R-La Mondiale (he rode with Crédit Agricole for nine years to begin his pro career).

The BMC and Garmin situations are not entirely disimmilar. Hushovd will join Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, emerging classics man Greg Van Avermaet and former world champion Alessandro Ballan with his new squad. Also in the equation is American veteran George Hincapie, though at 38 his ambitions for a cobbled monument win are fading. While the team should mass around the Norwegian for his top priority, Paris-Roubaix, the support he’ll receive at the Tour is questionable.

“My biggest goal is still to win Paris-Roubaix,” said Hushovd. “The BMC Racing team has good riders who can support me to win, and I can help others on the team to win.

“I think it will go very well. We’ll see what Cadel Evans is doing in the future, but I’m sure we’ll find a good solution to it.”

Norway’s last Tour star, Dag Otto Lauritzen, said Tuesday that a jersey-hunting Hushovd could co-exist and even thrive in Evans’ maillot jaune-focused squad.

“It depends on whether he will go for the green jersey or win in the tough individual stages,” said Lauritzen, commentator for TV 2. “To fight for the jersey requires more assistance riders, but it’s fine to ride as a team with combined candidates in the Tour. Erik Zabel took the team of Jan Ullrich.”

BMC Racing has also been rumored to be courting Belgian hilly classics star Philippe Gilbert, who swept the Ardennes week and most recently won the post-Tour Clásica de San Sebastién. While Hushovd and Gilbert are different riders, they are both big budget names and potential competitors for the Tour’s points jersey and a win at the Tour of Flanders. With BMC offering support to Evans’ Tour repeat bid and Hushovd’s stage hunting, the addition of Gilbert is now unlikely and would further muddy the waters for the Norwegian.

And after a year of unnease at Garmin, that’s the last thing Hushovd wants.